Better promotion can make mental health resources at U effective – The Daily Utah Chronicle
Mental health has lost much of its stigma in recent years. Partly because many people are experiencing mental health crises due to COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, young adults have shown increased symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders due to financial hardship and university closures. Mental health resources are available to reduce stressors in college-aged students. Although they have been around since before the pandemic, these campus-provided resources are grossly underutilized. Today more than ever, we must act to highlight the various resources available to students. Students are not taking advantage of mental health resources as much as they should, and this may be due to the University of Utah’s lack of promotion.
Mental health resources aim to improve the mental well-being of students. The mental health of many students has hit an all-time high due to the lack of socialization and normalcy that has accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic. These resources have become more accessible due to the pandemic by moving to a largely online format. Students can take advantage of the Counseling Center, Student Wellness Center, and Mindfulness Center, to name a few. However, many college students are unaware of these resources. It’s a huge problem that can have life-changing consequences. Mental support programs are not designed to sit idly on a shelf. They are designed to help and save lives. Although we have a campus that cares deeply about our mental well-being, we must consider how the U advertises these resources and whether they are effective.
The U has a strong social media presence. There are several different Instagram pages, each for various organizations on campus. Generally, only large events, such as a YouTube forum with Bill Nye, are considered. While that’s not a bad thing, it can overshadow those lesser-known groups that champion the resources they offer. These groups rely on those who are higher up and have more popularity and followers to tell people about their causes.
The U just released a new Instagram post on Feb. 17 about a short film contest with the subject “#healingoutloud.” It involves advocating for sanity, but has received backlash. Several comments expressed the need for mental health services to be more accessible to students before starting the university-wide mental health conversation. The next post that mentions a mental health resource that students have access to is 53 posts on the main U Instagram page. Messages that support mental health resource groups are few and far between.
Moreover, there is also no “highlight” of compiled resources on this main Instagram page. As a student, I usually only see mental health-related services advertised during finals week. Given that 71% of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 use Instagram, I would expect the U to use this channel to reach their students. The U must promote those lesser known resources that provide invaluable services. Whether it’s moving the focus of their main account or simply adding a weekly message, their lack of promotion needs to change.
The U has several diverse mental health resources for students. Eleanor Asma, coach at the Center for Student Wellness, compiled a list of these different resources, on and off campus. Some of these are national helplines, hospitals offering crisis counseling, and other options such as apps and support groups. In an interview, Asma described the process of conducting an online mental health screening. It is an anonymous, simple and easy university service. If you don’t know where to start, you can start with what is called a wide range display. It is, according to Asma, one of the best resources offered on campus.
Asma walked me through the mental health screening, which although thorough, was easy to complete during any type of crisis. Asma said, “Go through this questionnaire or even…call the counseling center and ask them, what do you think I should do? I struggled with A, B, C and D. What do you think would be the best course of action? For college students off and on campus, it’s as easy as answering a few questions directly related to how you’re feeling, with suggestions for help included at the end. Asma mentions that unless you search for these resources directly, you won’t find exactly what you need right away. It is therefore crucial that we advocate for change.
The U has a plethora of mental health support groups that just need more exposure and awareness. Current advertising for mental health resources is not enough. Talking about the issues that affect us can influence the changes we want to see. Raising awareness about this issue and how it affects the campus community is the first step to being able to make any change. By establishing that there is a problem we want to solve, we can ensure that future generations of students will have better access to these much-needed resources.
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